Mar 31, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux and catcher J.P. Arencibia (7) talk with starting pitcher Tanner Scheppers during the fourth inning of an opening day baseball game against Texas Rangers at Global Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

How Long Can Washington Keep Scheppers, Ross In Rotation

I know that there has been lots of worry over Ron Washington‘s decision to put both Tanner Scheppers and Robbie Ross in the starting rotation to start the season. I, for one, didn’t completely understand it. Both wanted a chance to start and both earned that chance by having great Cactus League seasons. They did all anyone could have asked them do, they clearly deserved the shot.

Besides, it is usually easier to find reliable bullpen arms that it is to find good starters. Middle relievers are in constant supply and even the good ones can usually be had for a fair price if needed. So it seemed to me that it was a lot of worry over nothing and I was a little annoyed when almost every story I read made it sound like only a matter of time before they were both back in the ‘pen where they belonged.

That was, until Scheppers took to the mound in a game that mattered and stunk the place up. Granted it was a big stage, getting your first start on Opening Day, at home no less. I’m still not so sure the Martin Perez wouldn’t have been a better option for Opening Day.

However, even more disconcerting than Scheppers’ performance was the performance of the bullpen. Middle relief looks like a wasteland right now. I know it’s only one game, but it was a really bad game for Ranger pitchers.

Sometime in the next 7-10 days, the Rangers stand to get both Yu Darvish and Colby Lewis back. The second Darvish is ready, Nick Martinez is on the next bus to Frisco, that’s for sure, but what about when Lewis comes back?

Wash will have to send somebody to the pen. It could be Joe Saunders, who didn’t impress anybody with his Cactus League performance. I can only imagine the discussion between pitching coach Mike Maddux and Ron Washington when it came time to make that call:

Wash: So, Mike, who’s it going to be, Tommy Hanson or Joe Saunders? Can’t keep ‘em both.
Maddux: making windmill motions with his right arm  I think I can give you five, coach.
Wash: Seriously.
Maddux: digging in his pants pocket for a quarter OK, heads Hanson, tails Saunders
Wash: groaning It’s going to be a long month

Saunders could surprise us all and give the Rangers a solid start and prove that he deserves that spot in the rotation. If he does, though, that means that either Scheppers or Ross will have to go. Ross has a chance to solidify his hold on a spot when he takes the mound tonight. A strong showing would make it harder for Wash to demote him.

As for Scheppers, you hate to pass judgement after one start, but he will certainly need to step up his performance the next time he pitches. Two bad outings will probably make Washington’s decision for him. Should Tanner pitch more like he did in spring training, it will muddle the picture even more.

Some believe that both will be back in the bullpen soon, but I’m not so sure. Yes, Matt Harrison could be available by mid-April, but I would like to see at least one of the two stick in the rotation. Ultimately, I’d like to see them both make it, as long as we don’t blow out their arms, the way we seem to have done with Neftali Feliz.

Even without the pending return of Darvish and Lewis, Scheppers and Ross in the rotation is an experiment, born partially out of necessity at that. Just how much rope does Wash give the two of them? How many turns do you give them before giving up? There’s no easy answer unless one or both to them make it easy.

There is yet another angle to this equation.  Both Scheppers and Ross asked for the chance to start.  If Wash pulls the plug on one of them after just a couple of outings, how will they handle it?  You would like to think that they would handle it with class and maturity, and maybe they would.  However, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they didn’t.  Players have gotten their feelings hurt for far less.  Would the disappointment carry over?

For now, Scheppers remains in the rotation with a shot at redemption just a few days away.  It seems silly to call it a must win, but he definitely needs a quality start.  Ross is now on the clock, and the entire organization will be watching closely.  One of these two will almost assuredly be in the bullpen by month’s end one way or another.  It might be best for everyone involved if one of them pitches their way out of the rotation, as opposed to making Washington choose.

And somewhere, if you’re really quiet, you can still hear Tommy Hanson laughing…

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Tags: Joe Saunders Robbie Ross Tanner Scheppers Texas Rangers

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